Scarlets dominate Ulster to go second in Guinness PRO14 Conference B


Louis Ludik on the attack for Ulster against Scarlets on Friday night
Louis Ludik on the attack for Ulster against Scarlets on Friday night

Ulster surrendered second place in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 with hardly a whimper against Scarlets on Friday night.

A five-point match haul saw Scarlets jump to second place, and open up a four point lead on the Irish Province.

Although Ulster made made a great start and took a 7-0 lead, they rarely got a sniff after the opening quarter, with the Scarlets totally dominating the second and third quarters.

Both sides were missing several international players, but it was the Welsh side who were better organised and fully deserved their win.

It had been an encouraging start from Ulster putting width on the ball in attack and also having good line speed in defence.

A counter attack saw Dave Shanahan feed Billy Burns and then Louis Ludik came around on the loop before popping to Henry Speight who made a charging run down the left flank.

The pass to the supporting Shanahan was perfect timely for him to run onto and go over for the opening try. Outhalf Billy Burns converted the near touchline conversion and Ulster were 7-0 ahead after 14 minutes.

Ulster's Marcell Coetzee on the attack against Scarlets on Friday night

But it became scrappy from the visitors and a penalty giveaway handed Scarlets outhalf Dan Jones a chance to reduce the deficit, which he duly did after 17 minutes.

Going into the second quarter the Scarlets began to gain the upper hand and were soon in full control of matters.

On 23 minutes tighthead prop Werner Kruger crashed over for their first try of the half, Jones converting.

Nick Timoney's last gasp tackle on Kieran Harding denied another certain try.

The hosts then had a try chalked off on 34 minutes, but two minutes later, after some impressive work from the pack, scrumhalf Kieran Hardy nipped over from close range. Jones' conversion made it 17-7.

The Ulster defence was found wanting in the final minute when first, number eight Cassiem made a thundering burst through and then centre Kieran Fonotia carved a path through for a try which took them in at the break leading 22-7, Jones missing his first kick of the evening with the conversion.

Scarlets continued their domination and control. They pummelled the Ulster line which seemed to hold, although the penalty count was high, most for offside.

Ulster captain Allan O'Connor eventually got a general warning as the penalty count mounted, and then James Hume made a clumsy tackle which offered another opportunity for the hosts.

Kruger had had a try ruled out earlier, but there was no denying winger Tom Prydie. The forwards had gone through 12 phases before the ball was spun quickly right and Prydie had a little bit of work to do before dotting down the bonus point securing fourth try. Jones' conversion was good and it was 29-12.

Ulster fired a little - a plethora of changes - and they were right back in it with their first attack of the second half - in the 65th minute. Three replacements were involved as the try came. Gerg Jones made the inital forray, John Andrews emerged from the ruck and popped a lovely pass up to scrumhalf Johnny Stewart who crossed for the try. Michael Lowry, now at outhalf, missed the conversion attempt and the arrears were 17 points at 29-12.

Ulster will look back at the number of unforced errors, another coming when Lowry failed to find touch with a penalty - putting his side right back under pressure again.

It looked as though Louis Ludik had gone over for a try in the final minute, but it was deemed double movement and that probably summed up the visitors' night.